How spelling mistakes can cost you a job

closeup of resume objective and Experience
closeup of resume objective and Experience

You've probably spent hours agonising over your CV, from the layout to the precise way you describe your skills. How many pages? What font should you use? Are you 'an expert' on that software package, or merely 'familiar' with it?

The chances are, though, that despite all this effort, you're making one big mistake with your CV - and it's a mistake that tops the list of annoyances for employers, YouGov research has found.

Nearly nine out of ten employers say that spelling and grammatical errors are the biggest no-no on a CV.

Sometimes, spelling mistakes just make the candidate look sloppy. Sometimes, they can make a prospective employer laugh out loud: the woman who actually misspelled the word 'proofreading', for example, or the man who took a career break to 'renovate his horse'.

But while you might think you could never be guilty of anything as absurd as this, a new analysis of over 20,000 CVs recently submitted to the evaluation tool ValueMyCV by found that 73% contained at least one spelling error. 20% had five or more.

"With employers placing increasing importance on finding the right candidate over simply filling a vacancy, jobseekers need to be more aware than ever of creating a great first impression," says Doug Monro, co-founder of Adzuna.

"The unfortunate fact is that a single misplaced lowercase letter could see a candidate relegated to the 'reject' pile."

Some of the commonest mistakes were the use of Americanisms, with words such as 'center', 'judgment', 'strategize', and 'behavior' all featuring heavily in British CVs.

Unnecessary apostrophes - so-called 'greengrocers' apostrophes' - were also abundant. One in 11 applicants reported having earned 'GCSE's', and more than 6% of CVs mentioned 'KPI's'.

Many CVs were also littered with incorrect or missing capitalisation. 'Yorkshire', for example, was written completely in lowercase more than once, while many applicants ignored unusual corporate capitalisation such as 'npower' and 'iPhone'.

Says Monro, "Employers may doubt your alleged proficiency with PowerPoint if you don't know where the capital letters should be placed, while failing to capitalise proper nouns can be taken as a sign of laziness or ignorance."

Women made noticeably fewer mistakes than men. But, rather wonderfully, CVs that boasted of a candidate's excellent spelling skills were actually more likely to contain five or more errors than those that didn't.

Meanwhile, job seekers who claimed to have expertise in written communication were only marginally less likely to have made five or more mistakes.

"Rather than claiming to have a good grasp of grammar and spelling, the best way to demonstrate written communication skills to an employer is with a well-written, mistake-free CV," says Monro.

So how can you make sure your CV is error-free?

These days, spell-checkers are much better than they used to be. Most will detect grammatical errors such as repeated words or homonyms such as 'their' for 'there', and can distinguish between 'its' and 'it's'.

However, they aren't infallible, with many preferring US spelling, for example. And they may not flag up confusion between 'accept' and 'except', or between 'practice' and 'practise'.

There are plenty of CV proofreading services available, but you really shouldn't need one if you have any helpful - and literate - friends.

It's important to ask them to flag up absolutely everything, as they may feel shy about revealing just how many errors you've made. As well as spelling and grammar, ask them to be particularly vigilant about punctuation, as this is the source of most errors.

The Grammarly blog has some good tips on what to look out for, including advice on hyphens and capitalisation - although, be warned, it uses American spelling.

However, if you do ask your friends to proofread your CV, make sure you take another look yourself afterwards.

Three years ago, a man named Brad sent his CV out to half a dozen companies after a friend had proofread it for him - and only afterwards discovered that the friend had added 'excessive masturbation' to his list of hobbies. Unsurprisingly, he wasn't called to any interviews.

The ten most commonly misspelled words by job seekers on CVs